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A Rejoindeb to Professor Perry. 


PROFESSOR PERRY'S article in the April number of 
the International Journal or Ethics calls for a 
reply both by its temperateness, and by the fact that it 
expresses objections to my previous article which are likely 
to be felt by most readers. In part, his objections would 
have been removed if I had written more fully. On the 
subject of non-resistance, I have since expanded what I 
had to say and have, I think, incidentally met some of his 
charges. r But in what follows I wish to reply point by point 
to his criticisms. 

Professor Perry is surprised that I should speak of my 
own opinions as merely an expression of "feeling." It is 
true that I formulated judgments and supported them by 
what was meant to be as like reason as I could make it. 
But all that can be 'proved in this way is that the opinion 
one is combating is by no means certainly true, and 
that the opinion one is advocating has as much in its 
favor as that of one's opponents. If our views as to 
what ought to be done were to be truly rational, we 
ought to have a rational way of ascertaining what things 
are such as ought to exist on their own account, and 
by what means such things are to be brought into exist- 
ence. On the first point, no argument is possible. There 
can be nothing beyond an appeal to individual tastes. If, 
for example, one man thinks vindictive punishment de- 
sirable in itself, apart from any reformatory or deter- 
rent effects, while another man thinks it undesirable in 
itself, it is impossible to bring any arguments in support 
of either side. In regard to means, the difficulty is just 

1 Atlantic Monthly, August, 1915. 


the opposite: so many arguments can be brought on both 
sides of the question that no rational decision is possible. 
Take again the question of punishment. Is punishment 
reformatory? Obviously sometimes it is, and sometimes 
it is not. Will it be reformatory on the present occasion? 
The answer, however supported by a wealth of argu- 
ment, will turn on whether we feel a vindictive impulse 
or not. Those who feel such an impulse will persuade 
themselves that the punishment will be wholesome; those 
who do not will persuade themselves that it will only 
produce exasperation. 

The subjectivity of men's opinions on political questions 
is much greater than is generally supposed. Whether a 
certain course of action will have a certain effect cannot, 
as a rule, be ascertained, and yet all argument for or against 
depends upon the effect which is expected. Unavowed and 
often unconscious desires lead men to feel convinced that a 
certain effect will result, when they ought to be full of 
doubt. Many men, before the war, had an unconscious 
impulse toward war, which led them to advocate, in the 
name of peace, various measures which seemed, to genuine 
lovers of peace, ideally calculated to produce war. The 
few who frankly avowed a desire for war, like Bernhardi, 
maintained that war leads to moral regeneration. The 
Morning Post maintains this view still, although it is easy 
to see that war has provoked hatred, brutality, and vice. 
It is not hypocrisy that promotes positive opinions of this 
kind, it is merely failure to allow for the influence of pas- 
sion on thought. In the case of private quarrels, we all 
know how anger alters men's judgment. And on the other 
hand pacifism before the war made many of its advocates 
blind to facts which took them by surprise last August, and 
led them sometimes to repudiate the convictions of a life- 
time. It was the attempt to do justice to such sceptical 
considerations which led me to speak of my own views as 
an expression of feeling. 

Professor Perry very kindly praises my disinterestedness. 
But I am willing to admit that disinterestedness itself may 


become a passion. When a German is accused of having 
murdered a baby, and it turns out that he murdered a boy 
of twelve, I almost forget his crime in the desire to prevent 
injustice. I am conscious that if I belonged to a neutral 
nation I should reprobate the spirit of Germany whole- 
heartedly; but I am restrained by disgust at the orgy of 
self-righteousness that has swept over the British nation. 

This applies especially to treaty-breaking. I recognize 
at once that treaty-breaking is a crime, since a habit of 
observing treaties would further the reign of law between 
nations if it could be established. But all nations sin in 
this respect. England and France ignored the Act of Alge- 
ciras; England and Russia ignored their guarantee of the 
independence and integrity of Persia; the Tsar broke his 
coronation oath to respect the liberties of Finland. America 
was only saved by the personal influence of the President 
from a breach of treaty as regards the Panama Canal. 
The nations of Europe have not the right to profess horror 
when one of their number follows the usual practice — not 
because the practice is good, but because there is hypocrisy 
in their horror. 

The chief crime of Germany in invading Belgium lies 
less in the legal fact that a treaty was broken than in the 
fact that terrible cruelty was inflicted on an unoffending 
nation. 2 But the question which England had to consider 
was, not whether Germany had committed a crime, but 
whether we should do anything to mitigate the bad con- 
sequences of that crime by going to war. If we had not 
come in, the Belgians would in all likelihood not have 
resisted the German arms. In return for a free passage 
and for our neutrality, the Germans would have respected 
Belgian independence, and Belgium would have been spared 
almost all that it has suffered. 

Professor Perry says: "It is important that no breach of 
such conventions as are already in existence should be con- 

2 If, for example, Belgium had first violated its own neutrality (as the Ger- 
mans pretend), that would not make Belgium as guilty as Germany, because 
the crime would be only against law, not against humanity. 


doned" (p. 308). If so, the duty cannot be confined to 
England, it must apply equally to the United States. Does 
Professor Perry really hold that the United States ought 
to have gone to war for Finland or Persia or Morocco? 
Surely not. The evil of a great war is so stupendous that 
in itself it outweighs almost any good result that it may 
achieve. Let us try to induce our own nation to observe 
treaties, but let us not embark upon a universal crusade 
against other nations which fail to observe them. 

Professor Perry expects (p. 309) that wars will be brought 
to an end through respect for treaties and international law. 
I do not myself think that this is likely to be a sufficiently 
strong force. I think wars will end, if they do end, through 
a growing realization that they are cruel and irrational, that 
the supposed conflicts between the interests of nations are 
illusory, and that co-operation is more likely to promote the 
happiness of the average citizen than mutual slaughter. 
The present war is likely to do a great deal to promote 
this realization, since the losses are unprecedented, and the 
gains to all parties are likely to be infinitesimal. A mood 
of unreason swept Europe into the conflict ; but the penalty 
for unreason has proved so great that men are likely to 
respect reason for some time after the war ends. 

I agree with Professor Perry that it is legitimate to make 
war in order to end war. But there is no reason to think 
that this war has any such purpose. As the Morning Post 
said (leading article, October 20, 1914): "The absurd talk 
about this being a war against militarism has now sub- 
sided. . . . After all the British Empire is built up on 
good fighting by its army and its navy; the spirit of war 
is native to the British race." This is the honest truth. 
All honor to the Morning Post for having the courage to 
proclaim it. 

Professor Perry, in his argument against non-resistance, 
ignores the limitations which I had suggested to the doc- 
trine. A war of principle, I had admitted, is sometimes 
justified. If some principle is at stake which we honestly 
believe to be of great importance to the human race, and 


if there is reason to think that that principle will survive 
by our victory but not otherwise, I hold that war may be 
justified. But in the present war, all the alleged principles 
seem to me in the nature of pretexts. As The Times has 
repeatedly pointed out, this is a war for the Balance of 
Power. It follows the tradition of the wars between Fran- 
cis I and Charles V, between Louis XIV and Marlborough, 
between revolutionary: France and legitimist Europe. 
These wars, in retrospect, have none of that glamour and 
importance that people endeavour to attach to the present 
war. And the present war, in retrospect, will shrink as 
they have shrunk. 

The doctrine of non-resistance, as I hold it, is only 
applicable to wars between civilized states. It rests upon 
the belief that what is valuable in a European nation is 
more likely to be destroyed by war— even successful war — • 
than by anything that another nation is likely to do if 
it is not resisted. A nation sufficiently numerous and 
strong to resist successfully by force of arms will also be 
able, if it chooses, to resist by the method of the strike, 
by mere refusal to obey. No one seriously supposes that 
the Germans would undertake to govern England, even if 
we had no army or navy. The mere political difficulties 
would be insuperable. And if ordinary peaceful citizens in 
Germany could not be incited by fear of England, there 
would be no such public opinion in Germany as would 
sanction an invasion of England. 

As regards Luxembourg, I have no reason to doubt that 
its condition is deplorable. But surely it is impossible to 
compare its sufferings with the devastation, murder, and 
rapine that have been inflicted on Belgium. And if the 
Allies succeed in reconquering Belgium, Belgium will suffer 
in the process all the destruction that may possibly be in 
store for Luxembourg. 

I have answered elsewhere most of Professor Perry's 
arguments on the subject of non-resistance. But I should 
like to say that non-resistance, as I conceive it, involves 
no lack of spirit or pride; on the contrary, it involves a 


greater and firmer pride than any other policy, and as 
great a readiness to die rather than yield as can be shown 
on a battlefield. The case of the Jews, alleged by Professor 
Perry, is ruled out by the very fact that they are, as he 
says, "obsequious." But the chief difference lies in the 
fact that the Jews are not a geographically compact nation, 
being almost everywhere a minority. They could not, in 
fact, secure their ends by armed resistance. Much the 
same conditions— large population, public spirit, power of 
organization — are required for preserving liberty by passive 
non-obedience as are required for success in an armed 

With what Professor Perry says in conclusion as to 
the relative merits of the combatants, I am largely in 
agreement. I think a victory for the Allies is much more 
desirable than a victory for Germany. I agree that "Ger- 
many and Austria are the principal offenders," but it is 
not clear to me that on them "may justly be visited 
whatever penalty be appropriate to the crime of war." 
American sympathizers with the cause of the Allies, under 
the impression that they are showing friendship, are very 
willing to urge us to go on pouring out our best blood on 
the plains of Belgium. But, though none of the combat- 
ants remember it, there is at stake in this war something 
which all equally are endangering — the civilization of Eu- 
rope, as it has come down to us from the Renaissance. If 
the war lasts much longer, almost all the men in Europe 
between 20 and 40 will be dead or disabled; the ones who 
return from the war will, especially if they are sensitive 
and highly civilized, have lost energy and initiative, and 
will drift through life helpless and listless. The next gen- 
eration will be educated by those who are no longer 
vigorous, and the continuity upon which civilization 
depends will be broken. It is likely that pestilences will 
carry off a large proportion of the civil population. It 
is certain that poverty and popular discontent will inter- 
fere with the work of art and science and literature, and 
threaten to submerge the higher mental life that has made 


Europe important to mankind. Horrors will have grown 
familiar, and will have ceased to horrify. A large propor- 
tion of those who return from the war will become criminal 
or drunken. All this must be obvious to any one who has 
observed the men returning from the front, and who has 
reflected upon the economic condition of Europe after the 
war. For these reasons, the cost of punishment may well 
be greater than any good that punishment can do. And is 
it likely that punishment will weaken the hold of the mili- 
tary party in Germany? Is it not clear that their hold on 
the ordinary citizen depends upon fear, upon the feeling 
that the constant invasions which Germany suffered down 
to 1813 can only be prevented by a strong army? Will 
not the Germans argue, if they are invaded, that their 
army has not been strong enough, and that they have not 
paid enough respect to their militarists? M. Cheradame, 
a noted and patriotic French writer, points the moral 
which the Germans would probably point, when he says : 

"La si dure lecon de 1870 aurait du vous preserver pour 
bien longtemps de 1'antimilitarisme, des theories pacifistes 
et des illusions dangereuses sur la fraternity des nations. 
Au point de vue de Finfluence des enseignements de l'his- 
toire sur la vie publique, la superiorite des Allemands sur 
nous n'est pas contestable. Pendant soixante-quatre ans, 
ils ont prepare" la revanche d'J6na et leur victoire de Sedan 
ne les a ni grises, ni endormis." 3 

I fear that Professor Perry's advice, if it is followed by 
the Allies, will only cause a new Jena to be the prelude to 
a new Sedan, and so on in an endless chain of victory and 
defeat to the end of time. Unless we are to believe in 
vindictive punishment for its own sake, even the worst 
wrong-doers ought not to be punished unless the punish- 
ment is likely to have good effects. In this case, it is 
likely, on the contrary, to- perpetuate and extend the very 
evils for which it is sought to inflict punishment. In spite 
of the Morning Post, I believe the least aggressive of Eu- 

'LaCrise Frangaise (1912), p. 208. 


ropean powers is England, which has only suffered defeat 
once, in the American war of independence. The United 
States, which has never been defeated, is even less aggres- 
sive than England. It is not defeat and punishment that 
makes nations peaceful, but security. We all know this as 
regards our own nation, but we are too contemptuous of 
other nations to judge them by ourselves. In this we are 
wrong, and the hope of the world must lie in a peace in 
which there are no victors and no vanquished. 

Bertrand Russell. 
Cambridge, England.